Saints will head to France for their second pre-season tour of the summer.

Mark Hughes leads his charges to China for a two-week stint to kick-off their preparations for the new season at the end of this month.

After that Saints will return home for just over a week before then heading off to France for a more familiar pre-season block.

Though the exact dates of the trip have yet to be confirmed, Saints are expecting to be away for at least a week, playing two fixtures while they are in France.

That will then leave time for the team to return to England and finish their preparations, which will likely include at least one game in this country.

Saints are keen to try and deliver Hughes the best possible conditions to get his squad in shape and ready to go.

Though the lack of Saints players in World Cup squads this summer is a disappointing reflection on a below par year for the club, it is a blessing in disguise for Hughes.

It will leave him with just four players reporting back significantly late with Dusan Tadic, Cedric Soares, Jan Bednarek and Maya Yoshida away with their respective nations in Russia.

They will all be given a proper holiday after their exertions end and then will re-join the club.

The tour to China, which departs on June 30 and returns on July 13, will be a slight step into the unknown, which is why Saints were keen to programme it as early as possible so as not to affect pre-season too much.

Part of the motivation is to try and spread the Saints brand in China after the purchase of a majority stake in the club by Gao Jisheng.

While in the Far East for the best part of a fortnight Saints will have a full training camp along with two games in the Club Super Cup with German side Schalke and Chinese outfit Jiangsu Suning the opposition.

Saints have traditionally wanted to head to mainland Europe for pre-season given the favourable conditions, good opposition and the chance to have the squad away together for a period of time.

The club hope the trip to France will deliver all of those things ahead of the return to England to get the final bits of work completed ahead of the opening weekend of the Premier League season on August 11.

Saints will discover who they will face on the first day when the fixtures are released next week.

The entire Premier League schedule for the upcoming campaign will be revealed on Thursday, June 14.